Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The case for a strong executive

Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield makes the case for a strong executive who sometimes supersedes the rule of law. The implications make me uneasy, but what I want to highlight here is that Mansfield approaches the question by tracing the historical development of the Constitution, including the separation of powers, and lays it out as an organizational problem: how did the Framers approach the issue that Aristotle laid out, the question of "whether it is more advantageous to be ruled by the best man or the best laws." Their answer, he contends, was to develop a system in which both cases could be true, depending on the circumstances.

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Alan Rudy said...

What Mansfield, of course, omits from is story -- I only skimmed it -- is that the Bush Administration is makeing their argument for a strong executive based on an absolutist reading of the law... they hold no truck with the kind of nuanced/situated reading Mansfield generates.

The other thing that struck me was that the case for a strong executive would seem to be able to be made for that stretch of time from mid-Sept 2001 through December but NOT w/r/t Iraq, much less the administration's position on executive privilege (which is not in the constitution) and power in terms of environmental, public health, cultural, trade and other kinds of non-emergency policy arenas.

Me, I'm opposed to the strong executive

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Yes, I wish that he had directly compared his position with the administration's arguments. It seems so obvious a move that I am surprised he avoided it. And I note the irony of a Republican president strengthening what we might call the monarchal side of the equation.

Doc Mara said...

I actually do not find it ironic. I think that this could be disillusioning to the libertarian wing of the GOP, but it has always been a part of the GOP platform (at least since the Southern switch). Much of the Southern culture is based on royalist migrations via Virginia (at least this I what I used to have to teach from Albion's Seed in American Studies).

Moreover, neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism often base their globalist justifications in extra-Constitutional and postnational notions.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

No, I mean the irony of the term "republic" embedded in "REPUBLICan."

But the history of Republican strong executives can't be pinned on the South, expect perhaps indirectly.

Doc Mara said...

No, I agree with what you linked to. But, of course, I think a lot of that wing of the "Former Party of Lincoln" shifted over to the Democrats (a shift that is almost complete). I'm not saying either party has a stranglehold on the concept of the strong executive branch. I'm only sayin' that both parties have their "Big Daddy" wing. The ones currently residing in the GOP come via the Virginia royalists/loyalists (at least according to the folkways outlined in Albions' Seed).